I'm still baking for goodie bags to give to friends I'm meeting for lunches and dinners this month so the brownie baking continues. Many brownie recipes are quite similar so they're just the easiest for me to try out as new recipes and be fairly confident they'll turn out and be up to standard to give away. I've had a tendency to keep adding the Nutella Crunch Topping to plain brownie recipes lately but for this one, I tried something different. Instead of a topping, I made a bottom crust out of crushed Oreo cookies, 2 ounces of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I didn't measure the Oreos but simply used up the ones I had left in the package. You can adjust the amounts; you just want to make sure the mixture is crumbly enough to make a layer without falling apart but not be wet or liquidy. Even if you don't get the proportions perfectly right, it's the bottom layer and can be forgiven a lot of sins when it's propping up a rich, fudgy, dense brownie. I actually ran a bit short on the Oreos so I wasn't able to make an even layer on the bottom.
This one came out a little thicker than I expected which was fine since I don't like thin brownies. But you do have to watch the baking time. The directions say to bake for 40 minutes exactly but I don't believe in "exact" since ovens vary so widely and 40 minutes in one oven could be perfect but dry in another and underbaked in a third. The toothpick test almost never fails me, especially since I'm so bad about remembering to time things. And no, I don't have a timer and have never invested in one since I'd probably forget to set it anyway. Anyway, I took these out when a toothpick inserted in the edges came out just about clean but inserted in the middle came out with a bit of batter still on it. Normally I would've left it in there longer but since the edges were done, I didn't want to take a chance on overbaking. As it turns out, that was the right call as you can see from the picture that, once cool, the chocolate set and was fine and fudgy. Taste-wise, I thought these were okay - remember I'm super picky so "okay" to me is probably perfectly good to someone else....or so I've been told....repeatedly. This does not have a rich dark chocolate but a typical semisweet chocolate flavor. Oh and if you like brownies with a top crust, this one has it. I don't which is another reason why this goes into the "okay" category for me.
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sugar
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.
2. Sift cocoa before using. In a medium bowl, blend the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. Put the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Warm the butter in a small saucepan until just melted, and remove from the heat. Pour the butter over the chocolate. Swirl the pan so the hot butter warms all the chocolate and covers it. Let the mixture sit 2 minutes. Stir to melt the chocolate. Let cool until slightly warm.
4. With a fork, beat the eggs and vanilla together in a medium bowl until just combined. Stir in the sugar with a rubber spatula. Pour in the cooled butter-chocolate mixture and mix until smooth. Do not whip. In 2 additions, fold in the flour mixture until almost combined. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth it. Tap the pan bottom lightly on the countertop a few times to remove excess air bubbles.
5. Bake for exactly 40 minutes. This recipe will puff slightly in the oven, then fall and crack; that’s normal. The brownies will seem underdone in the middle but will harden as they cool. Do not overbake. Cool in the pan on a wire cake rack before cutting into squares.